The Gartner Hype Cycle

There’s a good piece by V.C. Peter Gardner, head of telecomm investments at 3i, on the fabled Gartner Hype Cycle  and its applicability to contemporary technologies.

Gardner writes:

“The Gartner Hype Cycle, introduced back in 1995, has aided our understanding of the causes of business failures amongst early-stage technologies. Gartner explains how technologies are "hyped up" and appear to be far more developed, both in technology maturity and also market readiness, than they really are. One recent example from mobile communications markets is WAP, where there was an incredible amount of hype, which in reality the technology failed to match up to. Unified messaging also appeared to be a great idea, but it never convinced the IS managers. In both of these, the telecoms market misread the consumer demand. Both of these dived spectacularly into the Trough of Disillusionment and appear bound to stay there.

“VoIP on the other hand, which had a similar profile of being over-hyped and failing to deliver because of perceived quality problems, has now passed through the Trough of Disillusionment and is firmly on the Slope of Enlightenment and approaching the Plateau of Productivity. That is significantly helped by the emergence of broadband rather than dial-up as the consumer bearer.

“Yahoo! and Google are examples of high profile successes that fit the hype model well. Yahoo! floated towards the Peak of Expectations and was valued with a lot of hype. Then followed the slump of 2001 and 2002. Businesses like Yahoo! and have now emerged as successful and profitable businesses maturing towards the Plateau of Productivity, enabling Google to have its value recognised.”

I’d link to the piece, but it is locked behind the costwall. Total Telecom is a UK pub at adding a whopping 443 paid subscribers per month "And a factoid on The Financial Times has 76,000 subscribers to its site, and that total is growing at roughly a 7 percent annual rate, according to the company."

Wow. All of 443 new paid users per month? Why bother? No wonder the FT is consigned to the giveaway bin at the Delta Shuttle.  

IGN being shopped for $600-$800mm

IGN – host of the vgame sites Gamespy, IGN and TeamXbox is being shopped by Shearson-Lehmann for $600 to $800 according to the WSJ.

5.3 million monthly uniques to Gamespy in a market where the $9.9 bn annual spend beats the movies. The Journal only cites Gamespy’s traffic, which would value the deal at $133 per unique. This continues to be the season of Internet Search and Content M&A.


AFP Suing Google News for $17.5 Million – AFP Suing Google News for $17.5 Million

Call me dense, but why would a news organization sue Google News? This is the second time in a week that Google News has been painted as an evil leech.

 AGF is a corporate-level subscription service and is peeved that Google is scraping their headlines, leads, and thumbnailing photos. But in the end, if AGF puts their news onto the web, where is the harm in pointing traffic at it? If Google framed the clickthrough and sold adjacent space, sure, call in the lawyers, but that doesn’t appear to be the case here. Why wouldn’t fair-use come into play here and AGF benefit from the exposure and the potential subscription?

Last week a publisher of a b2b title asked me how I felt about Google eating into his revenue. This same publisher’s parent company has a policy against deep-linking, apparently because a competitor was bypassing the registration system and sending its users deep into their archives.

I don’t know why the news industry sees Google as the enemy. Someone please enlighten me. Beyond that, it all seems to come down to fair-use law.


Digressionary Print Formats

The cover story of the current issue of the Atlantic Monthly is by David Foster Wallace on the subject of talk radio. I enjoyed the piece, and as always Wallace’s great writing but I’d like to draw attention to the design of the article, specfically the use of sidenotes to accomodate and encourage Wallace’s penchant for digressions, footnote, and asides.

The best way to understand the design of the piece is to buy a copy of the magazine. A PDF is available online to subscribers, but the online version has some elements that try, but don’t truly express the concept.

"[Editor’s Note: In the print version of this article additional commentary from the author appears alongside the main text. (Subscribers may scroll down this page for a link to an Adobe PDF version of the article.) In the version below, click the phrases within the colored boxes to read the commentary.]"


The text of the article is occasionally highlighted in colors — think of the highlighter function in Microsoft Word — which signifies that the reader should look to the side of the main text for the appropriately colored box which contains a side note. Each color denotes a different type of sidenote. A footnote may be yellow, an editorial note blue, etc.

Wallace is a master of digression, a writer similar to Thomas Pynchon in his love with spiralling detours down the path of minutia, paths which can either lead the reader to despair of ever picking up the main narrative, or delight them if their taste in detail and complexity follow the author’s. In Infinite Jest, Wallace’s sprawling novel about tennis and Alcoholics Anonymous, he resorts to footnotes, a serious irritation to a reader who must flip to the end-notes to follow along. Thankfully, Wallace just keeps advancing the footnote counter through the entire novel, rather than following the academic practice of resetting the counter every chapter which forces the reader to seek the chapter’s section of footnotes, and then to that chapter’s specific note.

The practice of running footnotes right at the foot of the main text is more convenient, but nevertheless forces the reader to drop the narrative, move to the tiny type, and then return to where they left off.

What the Atlantic Monthly accomplishes is a very elegant solution to page design — one of the more innovative advances in print I’ve seen in some time and the best solution for hypertext concepts I have seen in print.  The "ergonomics" work well, the notes are easier to access due to their formatting adjacent to the main point, and there are no tiny superscript numbers cluttering the text. The colored highlights break the text snake of the mainbar like highway signs, making departure and return simple.

There are a lot of solutions to the problem of accomodating digressionary content. Hover balloons, IntelliText advertising, or good old fashioned hyperlinks can all accomplish the job online. The Atlantic has presented a print solution which could, if adapted, be a very elegant model for online design. 

Minor Irritations are turning into a Major Force

Today’s NYT has a front page piece on  people rebelling against life’s little irritations — Starbuck’s having the conceit to call a medium-sized cup of coffee a "Grande", annoyed users turning to to get user names and passwords for registration-walled websites, people returning postage-paid junk mail envelopes to sender filled with pieces of scrap metal to drive up the postage costs.

In an article I wrote for CMO Magazine last fall on the after-effects of the national Do Not Call registry which effectively ended telemarketing, I quoted Seth Godin on the concept of permission marketing and the growing sense of irritability among consumers over intrusions by clueless marketers. He predicts a future where consumers will be induced to listen to a pitch or receive a spam in return for some reward.

My sense is that consumers are at a boiling point due to unrelenting assaults by spam, phishing, identity theft, pop-ups, page-takeovers, registration-walls, that a vocal minority will begin to fight back in ugly ways. I was unaware that Slashdot once posted the address of a notorious spammer and urged its hordes to overwhelm him with junk mail, bogus subscription offers, etc..

This leads me to postulates Churbuck’s First Rule of Online Media: Don’t piss off your traffic. Every aspect of online operations, design, and commercialization needs to be analyzed in the context of this commandment.  Any violation of the law will surely result in a fast sweve by the traffic to a more friendly alternative.

State of Online News

Online: Introduction

The Center for Excellence in Journalism has released its annual state of journalism report. This is a link to the online section which points out, correctly, that while the trend is the friend for online growth, the lack of a viable economic model with the margins seen historically on the old media side is limiting spending and development despite the ad renaissance. 

Online Publishers Association: Paid Content Sales Rise in 2004

Online Publishers Association: Press Releases

The news here is the decline in the sale of business/investment content — down 6.3% from 2003. Bear market? Beardstown Ladies out of the market? Not likely. More plausible is the general realization by consumers that little business/investment content is truly unique and if not available from one source, can be located elsewhere.

 Research is up 6% but still a relatively small market at $115.1 million.

 Here’s the list of what I pay for:

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